Cuckoo Clock Buying Guide

The most important decision in buying a Black Forest cuckoo clock is the cuckoo clock style. The 2 most popular types are Traditional and Chalet - though Modern style cuckoo clocks have become recently sought after as well. There are several variations of the Traditional and Chalet cuckoo clocks which can be seen below.

Traditional cuckoo clocks are considered the oldest or original style and come in 3 main variations: Station House - which was modeled after local railroad stations, Hunter style which often features animals (alive or otherwise) as well as hunting accessories such as a rifle, powder bag and horn or sometimes even a carved hunter figure an finally, an all encompassing Nature style which can feature forest elements and animals such as deer, ibex, bears and birds.


Station House Cuckoo Clock Features:

  • The most classic of the current cuckoo clock styles.
  • Modeled after old German railroad guard houses.
  • Ornate leaf carvings often surround the frame.
  • Varied use of light and dark stain to create contrast.
  • Matches well to a variety of furniture styles and settings.

Hunter Cuckoo Clock Features:

  • Commemorates German hunting culture.
  • Can include carved rifles, bag & horn.
  • Stag or other animal roof carvings are common.
  • Deer, rabbits & birds are frequently featured.
  • Leaf and branch carvings add to forest look.

Nature Cuckoo Clock Features

  • Celebrates nature with live animal carvings
  • Non-animal clocks are often richly adorned with leaves.
  • Painted flowers and berries are added to some clocks.
  • Movement such as tipping birds in a nest sometimes added.
  • Bears, deer, squirrels & birds are commonly featured.

Chalet cuckoo clocks, while newer than traditional cuckoo clocks, have still been around for a very long time. Usually featuring a mountain chalet, this style can also include beer gardens (biergartens), farm houses, bell towers and even large estates. The chalet cuckoo clocks often feature moving pieces or animations. These can include moving mill wheels, wood choppers, bell ringers and of course beer drinkers - all of which move along with either the cuckoo call or the music. Some chalet cuckoo clocks have movements that match the clocks theme, such as a kissing couple or an occupation. All movements will be listed in the description in the cuckoo clock's product page.


Chalet Cuckoo Clock Features

  • Resemblance to German chalets & farmhouses.
  • More colorful than traditional style cuckoo clocks.
  • Often feature moving elements and figures.
  • Can feature Black Forest or Swiss chalet style roof.
  • Meant to capture a moment in time from a German scene.

Biergarten Cuckoo Clock Features

  • Represent classic German biergartens.
  • Many have a Bavarian theme with blue/white coloring.
  • Moving beer drinkers are a staple animation.
  • A waitress in a traditional dirndl is a common element.
  • Occasionally play German drinking songs.

Modern Cuckoo Clock Features

  • Newest style of cuckoo clock.
  • Common designs include birdhouses and geometric shapes.
  • Usually do not play music.
  • Feature clean lines and a minimalist look.
  • A wider array of colors are available.

Movement / Mechanism: 1-day | 8-day | Quartz

The movement determines how often the clock needs to be wound (by pulling the weights up by the chains for mechanical cuckoo clocks). A 1-day cuckoo clock needs to be done every day and an 8-day cuckoo clock about once per week. In either case, the cuckoo clock can be easily stopped and started if you will be away for any length of time. If you prefer to not have the chains close to the floor due to pets or small children, there is the option on an 8-day clock to loop them up and hang the bottom ring on the weight hook. This way they remain up higher and you still only need to wind the clock every 3-4 days.

A quartz movement in a battery cuckoo clock never needs to be wound and needs only fresh batteries. The weights and chains are for decorative purposes only on battery cuckoo clocks. It is important to note that the cuckoo and music on a battery cuckoo clock sounds different than on a mechanical cuckoo clock.


Night Shutoff

All mechanical cuckoo clocks have a manual night shutoff, which is simply a lever on the left side of the clock or a wire beneath it. Some cuckoo clocks have an automatic night shutoff feature which turns the sound off between certain hours, the standard of which is 9-6. This is not customizable. However, the clock does not know if it is day or night, so it can be set so that it is quiet during the day if you prefer.

For quartz battery cuckoo clocks there are some models with a light sensor which will automatically turn the sound off and for others there is only a manual switch. Be sure to check the clock specifications!


Cuckoo Clock Music

Music is a very important choice to consider when you order your cuckoo clock. For most cuckoo clocks the 2 songs will be "Edelweiss" and "The Happy Wanderer".

For Biergarten (beer garden) cuckoo clocks, you may find the melodies "Drink Brother Drink" and "In Munich there is a Hofbrauhaus". This is an exception though and we will always list the songs in the product description.

Cuckoo song sequence also varies between clocks. 8-Day cuckoo clocks with music play on the hour only. They alternate between the two songs that they play each hour. Whereas a 1-Day cuckoo clock plays music on the hour and half hour. It alternates between the two songs in this fashion and the same song will always play on the half, the other always on the hour. Even though they both play the same number of songs (2), 8-Day cuckoo clocks play one song per hour and 1-Day cuckoo clocks play two songs per hour and this could be a consideration when choosing your new cuckoo clock.

The number of tones indicates the number of notes for the music box and will usually be 22 or 36. The more notes (tones) there are, the more detailed the music will sound.

Most battery cuckoo clocks have 12 songs with a different one playing each hour.


Music Box songs on mechanical cuckoo clocks:

Melodies on battery cuckoo clocks:


Dancers

On most cuckoo clocks that play music you will also find dancers beneath the cuckoo door. These figures are usually adorned in traditional German clothing and spin as the music plays.

Animations - Moving Figures

Many cuckoo clocks, but especially chalet cuckoo clocks will have moving figures or animation. The most common are beer drinkers lifting their glasses or a wood chopper in action. You will also see a moving mill wheel in many cases. Other moving figures include a woman ringing a bell, people on a see-saw, men sawing wood and a blacksmith forging horseshoes. The animations have become more creative over time and you can see which parts of the clock move in the product video or clock description.

Chalet cuckoo clock with dancers and animation:

Pricing

What goes into the pricing of a cuckoo clock? The main components are:

Size: Dimensions can be found on the product page in the tab "Additional Info". These dimensions represent the main body of the clock and do not include the pendulum, weights or chains.

Carving: Since most of the clock is hand carved, the amount of detail involved can effect the price, since more detailed cuckoo clocks require more time and skill to create.

Music: The addition of the music box as well as the increased sophistication of the interaction with the mechanism can result in a higher priced cuckoo clock. Music cuckoo clocks usually include moving dancers as well.

Mechanism: An 8-day mechanism can add to the price, but only to a small degree. Instead, many cuckoo clocks that would already be in the higher price range because of size, detail and music will be given the 8-day movement. You can find still find higher priced 1-day cuckoo clocks and lower priced 8-day cuckoo clocks.

OR...

Help me choose by using our step by step Black Forest cuckoo clock selector!